Steve Sentoff, age 70, President of the Friends from 2019-2021, passed away on Monday, April 5, 2021, a few days after he suffered a massive heart attack at Frautschi Point, doing what he loved—restoration work as Preserve Steward. Steve and his soulmate Monica had moved to Madison only a few years earlier, retiring to the place where they had met as graduate students in the Math department. Steve and Monica found ways to share activities and interests throughout their lives. They both joined Bell Laboratories in Chicago. Steve moved from programming to system engineering and Monica moved into software architecture. In their free time, since 1990, they took up dedicated volunteerism and after their retirement in 2005, they turned into professional volunteers, usually dividing their time among two worthwhile organizations.
It began with Earthwatch extended fieldtrips to other countries. Closer to home, they joined the West Chicago Prairie Stewardship Group of the DuPage County Forest Preserve. Steve devoted 25 years to the prairie’s restoration, becoming the leading volunteer site steward.
In parallel to their active restoration work both in Chicago and later at the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, Steve and Monica volunteered one day a week at the Chicago Field Museum, including data entry on Chinese rubbings, Tibetan thangkas and South American pottery, and later at the Wisconsin State Historical Society, where they transcribed 21,000 handwritten ledger entries and helped move the collection to the new State Archive Preservation Facility.
Steve joined the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve soon after their arrival in Madison and was elected to the Board in 2017. Steve was secretary and took on the presidency in his third year. During his two years as president, he ran exemplary meetings and treated everyone with kindness and respect. He had a way of making people feel welcome and comfortable and was a persistent problem solver.
Steve’s first love was restoration work. He worked countless hours with Preserve staff, be it clearing buckthorn or prescribed fires, and also independently. He helped organize the Friends wildflower plantings, coordinated volunteers, introduced the use of the iNaturalist application and helped initiate the Friends becoming a Clean Lakes Alliance Forecasting Steward at University Bay Boat Launch and pier. And, importantly, he found ways to strengthen communication between the Friends and the UW Preserve staff. We will all miss Steve.